Monday, May 5, 2014


Ghosts from the 1960s
The Ship Name May Have Been An Oversight, But The Reenactment Is Inexcusable  

Editor's Note: 1/23/2015 Indonesia continues to act with callous disregard continuing the name of the controversial ship and continuing to commemorate the attack and the attackers as a moment of national pride. Singapore and Indonesia since the Konfrontasi have been naval allies in the guarding of the important passages of the important narrow passages between them that lead from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. In this, these two nations have done an admirable job involving a critical international responsibility. Last year we published posts complimentary to the excellent naval and coast guard forces of both nations. But in this matter, as we enter 2015, we continue to warn Indonesia that they appear callous, their actions at the time were in violation of international law. The naval professionals of the world who admire the fine job being done by their naval and coast guard forces today, which include their marine corps, are embarrassed for them over this affront to  the naval professionals of Indonesia who are obligated by the politicians to continue to perpetrate something that violated every tenet of naval ethics. To comply with an ill advised naming of a naval vessel by civil authorities, or participate in ceremonies honoring an event that was intrinsically immoral is not really a matter of choice for military members as these are not in and of themselves illegal orders. But the two marines so honored and their superiors whose successors are behind this affront to humanity, did conceive and carry out grossly illegal orders that since Nuremberg individual members of the armed forces are obligated to disobey at all costs. This continuing controversy affects maritime security in the region, a region that passes most of the container traffic between the Indian and Pacific Basins. This yet another issue we will be watching in 2015.   Editor's Note: 4/11/2015 Despite our long held hope that the U.S. might issue a statement or a policy of avoiding exercises with the controversially named vessels we are pretty sure that even that even such mild actions won't happen.The Obama administration appears blissfully unconcerned with the situation. 

The "Usman Harun episode" refers to the names of two Indonesian marines who chose to obey illegal orders and bomb the McDonald House in Singapore in the 1960s. The target was basically a civilian office complex occupied by civilian workers, many were injured, some maimed for life. Two young women were killed, one was the mother of small children. A father never awoke from his coma, denying support to his young children. There was no declared war, there was a sometimes armed conflict called the "Konfrontasi. "  Indonesian Marines Usman and Harun were ordered into Singapore by their military superiors, traveled in civilian cloths, under false pretenses with the specific intention of committing violent acts designed to dissuade Singapore from her internationally declared and lawful intention of breaking with Indonesia as a subordinate political subdivision and reorganizing as an independent city state. Given the legal position of Singapore there was nothing within the bounds of International law that Indonesia could do in terms of use of force to dissuade Singapore's independence. 

 There was also nothing that Usman and Harun could have done in terms of carrying out their orders that would have been legal under international law. However had they held to attack on a military target They may have escaped the terrorist label. They might have also escaped the death penalty and have been viewed as simply the first attack forces in an undeclared war. The Japanese dive bombers and even the higher echelon of naval commanders in the attack on Pearl harbor in WWII were never viewed as terrorists or war criminals despite the fact that the attack occurred before the declaration of war. Instead Usman and Harun bombed a civilian office complex seriously injuring about 33 civilians, some maimed for life, and killing two young women civilian workers, one the mother of young children.They did this in civilian clothing and then attempted to escape back to Indonesia. They were captured in civilian clothing by police officers investigating a crime. There being no declared war or recognized armed conflict involved, there being no uniforms worn, the target being expressly prohibited by the international laws of armed conflict, their Indonesian Marine Corps affiliation offered them no status as prisoners of war. They committed an act of terrorism, it may have been state sponsored, but it was terrorism none the less. They were hanged and their bodies were returned to Indonesia which declared them national heroes. We have published on this subject previously see: Singapore Voices Concern Over Naming of Indonesian Navy Ship ).

 See : the Independent Singaporean Defense Blog :SENANG DIRI 

 At SENANG DIRI you will learn of the latest Indonesian outrage related to this 1960s event DRAMATIC MILITARY REENACTMENTS of the events by Indonesian marines portraying Usman and Harun as heros in full uniform. We tried to be fair in our coverage of the original furor over the naming of an Indonesian naval vessel in honor of the bombers of McDonald House, but this is too much. Indonesia is now acting as a nation much like certain groups in Germany that deny the Holocaust ever happened. Disgusting! 

Johnas Presbyter, Editor
  Read More : The Singapore Book shelf Link will Take you to most books in print about Singapore



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